Grief educator helps folks mourning Melissa Jenkins' death - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Grief educator helps folks mourning Melissa Jenkins' death

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Melissa Jenkins Melissa Jenkins
Franne Whitney Nelson Franne Whitney Nelson

In Melissa Jenkins' hometown of Danville - emotions are raw.

"I've learned that people are lugging around grief, it is so close to the surface sometimes," says grief educator Franne Whitney Nelson.

Nearly two weeks after the young mom and school teacher was killed folks across the Northeast Kingdom are still in the early stages of dealing with their grief. Thursday Nelson joined folks at the Danville school to help them make sense of their emotions.

"The goal is not to make grieving people feel less sad the goal is to make an extremely frightening and complicated process less complicated and less frightening," says Nelson.

Nelson's work is funded through a grant is funded through a grant from the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services. She says coping with a sudden and unexpected death can be the most difficult, "What will happen to people who loved her and even people who didn't but are affected by this because this is very very frightening they will have the sleepless nights they will have eating disorders to a certain extent they will have a lot of anger."

Mark Smith was close friends with Jenkins, "Melissa was dear to me, as she was to her friends and family," he says.

The Coach and Danville School counselor was one of roughly 20 people who turned out for the community forum. "I feel like anytime I can be given an opportunity to learn about strengthening myself and what I can offer to students it's great for me and those that I work with," says Smith.

Some in the crowd didn't know the St. Johnsbury Academy teacher, Nelson says it's normal for them to be grieving as well. She says Jenkins' death could easily trigger memories of losses much closer to home, "Somebody might look at someone and say you didn't really know her or you didn't spend a lot of time with her so why are you so upset about this? Well it's compounding what happened before."

Nelson says the nature of Jenkins' death makes it one of the most challenging she's seen in her career when it comes to helping people grieve. She says that getting rest, eating right and cutting back on tobacco and caffeine can help--as can support from those living through the same experience.

"I think that she would be honored that so many people are taking this opportunity, although tragic, to try it make something good of this," Smith adds.

Nelson spent much of her career working with the Vermont State Police to notify families who had lost loved ones.

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